Neele Boelens: ‘I think it is important to get young people to vote’
Neele Boelens is a board member at DWARS, the youth organisation of political party GroenLinks. In addition, she is studying towards two degrees at Leiden University: Linguistics and Public Administration. A busy year, especially with the upcoming elections.
At DWARS, Neele is board member Organisatie & Leden (Organisation and Members). ‘I am responsible for incoming new members. I explain to them what it is that DWARS, as an organisation, does exactly. I also make them feel welcome and that is only possible by ensuring that we are a diverse, accessible and inclusive organisation.’
In addition, Neele is busy with the upcoming national elections. ‘As a board, we are working towards this. I myself am mainly occupied with the large number of members we will probably gain, because more and more young people are becoming politically aware.’ Together with her board, she also organises all kinds of activities in the run-up to the elections, such as talks with members of the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives). ‘It is something that has been on our agenda as a board since the beginning of the year and it is what we are working towards. During the entire year, we have been thinking about what our strategy is going to be and what media expressions we will be using.’
This year, DWARS’ main focus is reaching young people, especially the generation that will be voting for the first time. ‘It is extremely important that this young target group will be voting. Research shows that if you do not vote the first time, you are less likely to do vote later in life. It is already a gain for the entire country if just a couple of extra young people decide to vote.’ Because young people should also participate in democracy, according to Neele.
Two study programmes
In addition to her busy year as a board member, Neele is studying towards two degrees, including one in Linguistics. ‘I am indeed very busy, two study programmes and in addition I am occupied with DWARS for about 20 to 30 hours per week. That is why I took fewer courses last semester and why I will take three next semester.’ Her study programmes are, nevertheless, very useful: ‘Last semester I took a course on strategic language use, the things I learned during that course I could apply straight away to my work at DWARS!’ In this way, her study programme and position as a board member complement each other very well.
On 17 March 2021, the Dutch general elections will be held and we will choose who will represent us in the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives). In this short series of interviews we talk to students, alumni and academics of the Faculty of Humanities who are personally involved with the elections.